Your pre-twenty’s is everything all at once and nothing at all; it was for me, anyway. You’re born, then you’re a toddler, then you’re starting year one making new friends, then high-school, you go through puberty; surprise, you’ve got your first period, would you like some bullying on the side? First job with a minimum wage, tossing fries into cardboard sleeves all weekend. You think you know yourself? Oh please, tell me that again in five years. University applications take up the rest of your weekend, but the end of year 12 has already rolled around and you’re graduating high-school. Time to get drunk for a week with your besties and then shuffle off to accumulate $30,000 in debt! Get ready for 3am bedtimes, cramming for exams, forking out money for textbooks and having more breakdowns then you can consciously count. Chuck some depression in there, just to stir the pot a little. Do some travelling that will open up your eyes to the world. Wait, I’m graduating with a degree that I’ll either fully utilise or not use at all? Hold up, I’m 21? A fully-fledged adult? Since when? You guys are bluffing…
My experience similarly followed this sequence of events, but I’ll start with high-school. All in all, high-school was not horrible. I had my awkward phase, but I was a floater; I didn’t have a solidified group of friends and I was okay with that. I got great grades, and I was friends with my teachers. I was well behaved, and never got into any trouble. Boys weren’t in the picture, and at the time it bothered me, but now, not so much. I had horrible acne and bad skin that took a toll on the way I felt about myself, so much so that I went to a dermatologist and got ultrasounds to find out I had too much of a certain hormone. I ended up going on birth control pills to maintain my hormone levels, and it worked. My skin cleared up, I got into the university and degree that I wanted, I got a new job, and things were looking up.
University was where the real rollercoaster started. The first year, 2014, was again everything all at once and nothing at all. I got my footing; I learnt how to drive in the city, I learnt how to organise my timetable, I learnt the basics of business and graphic design, I made some new friends, and I was very happy.
Completely out of the blue, I decided to quit my design degree and stick with Business whilst working three jobs. I went on holiday with my family and out of nowhere I started getting panic attacks. The first was in Longreach and I couldn’t breathe. I could feel my heart pounding against my chest, I couldn’t put a sentence together, and I practically begged my parents to take me to the hospital. I remember clutching my pillow hoping that it would somehow sooth the aching of my chest. I rarely have them now, but to this day I have no idea what triggered them.
By the end of 2015 I needed some sort of change. Life just wasn’t exciting enough, so I went travelling. I travelled to New Zealand with a friend on a Contiki Tour and spent two weeks exploring the north and south islands. It was my first overseas trip and I developed a genuine love and passion for travelling. Go to New Zealand, it’s the epitome of a lush, mountainous environment.
2016 was a comfortable breeze and the least emotionally chaotic year since 2014. I volunteered at an environmental fair, at my university, and at a cancer charity bike race. I was working at my university as an ambassador where I gave presentations to high school students about careers and university pathways and I also worked as a digital marketing content creator.
In April 2016 I booked and paid for a two month solo trip to the UK and Europe in 2017; this was my proudest accomplishment to date because I took the first step to something that was completely out of my comfort zone.
And we’ve come full circle. I’m ready for 21 and 2018; for a clean slate. 2017 was hard. Like, really hard. I started the year on such a high. Travelling around Europe was an eye-opener and hands down the best experience of my entire life. I came home to Australia knowing full well that it would only be my home for a couple more years; expat life in England is my calling and I fully intend to relocate in 2019.
Life was very dull after that trip. I craved being around new people, eating different foods, spending a fuck load of money on things that I just ‘wanted’, and exploring different countries. Instead I was working 45 hour weeks and getting just over 5 hours of sleep a night; my heart was 16,000kms away. My final semester of university started and the stress that I was putting myself under was messing with my head; nothing seemed worth it anymore. Nothing lived up to the first part of 2017. It’s slowly getting easier, though, because I’m trying my hardest; eating better, getting my seven glasses a day, getting a decent nights’ sleep, going for walks. I’ll write about it more one day, but let’s get ready for Racquel’s signature somewhat-sentimental conclusion.
And here I am, turning 21. If I can offer one piece of advice it is to be yourself. Growing up is tough, and all my life I wanted to be 21. I wanted to have my independence and I wanted to make my own decisions, but the journey there is rough. You’ll have obstacles, and you’ll make mistakes, but it’s apart of the process, and each event will shape you into a stronger person. Stick by your values, express your opinions, try new things, and pursue your interests; if you do, life will fall into place and then you will be thankful for the obstacles.